“Wear-and-Tear” Claims Reflect Aging of American Workforce

May 26, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Research by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. finds workers’ frameworks are showing wear and tear.

Nearly one in four employees on a short-term disability claim were unable to work due to a disabling illness impacting their skeleton or muscles, specifically backs, knees and feet, according to an analysis of nearly 750,000 short-term disability claims. A press release said employees who were age 50 and older accounted for 40 percent of back and spine claims.  

Men had more claims due to back and spine disabilities than women (30% and 20%, respectively), while ankle and foot conditions, such as bunions and hammertoes, were more common among women than men. One in four claims was due to worn-out spinal discs, and one in five claims was due to knee problems related to arthritis or worn-out cartilage.  

The average length of time that an employee was out of work due to a musculoskeletal disorder was approximately 10 weeks, according to the announcement. The Hartford noted that its 2010 Benefit Landscape Study found that 95% of workers said they would need to make lifestyle changes if they lost part of their families’ income for three to six months, yet only 55% of workers have short-term disability insurance and only 47% have long-term disability insurance.  

The Hartford offered suggestions on how employers can help protect the backbone of their business:

  • Encourage sedentary workers to take breaks, stand up and walk. Sitting for long periods of time strains the lower back, which could exacerbate an existing condition.
  • Hold a health fair featuring fitness and wellness vendors, such as a dietician.
  • Publicize fitness events in your community, such as a charity walk.
  • Offer healthy food choices in vending machines.

Workers can calculate their chance of becoming disabled –personal disability quotient (PDQ) – by visiting www.WhatsMyPDQ.org.  

More about the claims analysis is in the blog on The Hartford’s Productivity Lab at www.thehartford.com/productivity.